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Author Topic: Defining the Celts  (Read 7290 times)
Juni
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« Topic Start: September 03, 2009, 09:30:44 pm »

I'm a little tired, so apologies if this comes out a little strangely!

In one of our longer threads (I'm blanking on which one it was at the moment) we got to defining what exactly we meant by "Celtic". Most importantly, the beliefs and concepts that differentiated between Celts and everyone else. I'd like, when it's done, to make it an article on the SIG website. In the quote below is the (very) rough draft of what Finn and I have so far, but it needs a lot of work and more detail.

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There are a number of beliefs and concepts that are integral to the Celtic worldview that a beginner should carefully consider.

The Celts were a polytheistic people; within this SIG, we welcome both soft and hard polytheistic views of the gods. While the ancients were likely to honor the gods local to them, we welcome both pantheon and patron approaches. They believed that this world was made of Land, Sea and Sky.

Certain roles were held in high regard amongst the Celts; warriors, druids, kings, poets and outsiders all exemplified important aspects of their cultures. Of course, as not everyone is a priest, so too are these roles not appropriate for every Celt, but understanding their roles in society is important to gain a better understanding of the culture and beliefs.

There is a shared belief in an afterlife- the specifics can vary, and may or may not include concepts of reincarnation. Honoring one's ancestors, whether they are related or not, is an important aspect of Celtic practice.

The Celts held many values in common: creativity, learning and knowledge, the importance of the clan, hospitality, honesty, honor, justice, loyalty, courage, strength and gentleness. While there are no authoritative texts amongst the ancient Celtic paths, the extant lore is a good example of behavior and its repercussions- good and bad- in the Celtic world.

So: what beliefs do you think are integral to a Celtic belief system?
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« Reply #1: September 03, 2009, 10:28:37 pm »


Looking over the article, I would agree with most of it.  The following traits are things I believe are integral to my brand of Celt spirituality and perhaps could be considered for others as well:

Honor and Respect
Hospitality and Kindness
Poetry and Song
Reverence to the Ancestors
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« Reply #2: September 05, 2009, 03:58:18 pm »

So: what beliefs do you think are integral to a Celtic belief system?

Here's an article by Erynn Laurie--http://thunderpaw.com/neocelt/--called Following a Celtic Path that briefly names those elements she believes to be essential to a "path true to the Celtic spirit." (This can also be found at the imbas.org site)

I think a lot of what she explains in there is pretty close to how I feel about it, though I will be rereading it shortly and giving some of my own thoughts in a later post.

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« Reply #3: September 05, 2009, 04:03:20 pm »

Looking over the article, I would agree with most of it.  The following traits are things I believe are integral to my brand of Celt spirituality and perhaps could be considered for others as well:

Honor and Respect
Hospitality and Kindness
Poetry and Song
Reverence to the Ancestors

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I consider most of these to be values, not beliefs. And there is a difference. Values can the same across many religions (i.e. Honoring Your Parents is a value of Christianity and Judaism both, and Honor and Hospitality are common to Heathenism and many other pagan religions), but beliefs are the core of the practitioner as an adherent of that particular religion.

I do think that poetry is a huge part of any Celtic system though; it's mainly a matter of phrasing it so that it makes up a solid "belief" rather than just "this is something we value". Reverence of ancestors is a large part of many pre-Christian pagan religions, and can easily be termed a belief.
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« Reply #4: September 05, 2009, 05:39:56 pm »


Thanks for the link, what I've seen so far looks really interesting.
Though a lot of the links and sub-pages are dead Sad
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« Reply #5: September 05, 2009, 06:18:24 pm »

I think a lot of what she explains in there is pretty close to how I feel about it, though I will be rereading it shortly and giving some of my own thoughts in a later post.

Using the beliefs listed by ERL (Erynn Rown Laurie) and a little thought, here is a brief list of what I think is essential for a Celtic path that is true to the "Celtic spirit". I used the word "reverence" because to me that seems to encompass best all of the sorts of things we do and focus on here in our respective paths, from active outright worship to a nodding respect/acknowledgement:


1. Reverence for Celtic Deities
Kind of obvious, but it needs to be said.

2. Reverence for Ancestors, Heroes and Land Spirits
Another one that is kind of obvious, and attested to in the extant literature. Land Spirits perhaps may need to be broadened to "The Land", though more often than not, one doesn't worship the hill so much as the Lady of the Hill (or what have you). Hero and ancestor worship are at the core of so many pre-Christian pagan religions that to deliberately exclude them from a modern Celtic path is rather misguided. (Note: you may not actively worship your ancestors, or any heroes or whatever [like me], but that's okay, so long as you acknowledge they are there and give them respect.)

3. Reverence and Creation of Poetry (Lit and Lang) as Magic and Social Mechanism
ERL said something in the article that I really love: "Celtic Pagans must be poets, even if they aren't great poets." Lit and Lang is my abbreviation for Literature (stories, poems, myths) and Language (uh... yeah). The Celts, probably more than any other culture I can think of right now, had a particularly unique worldview rooted in story, song and above all, the power of words. Poetry is the method for any kind of charm, spell or magic working undergone in the Celtic mythos, and poets used their gifts for social movement, praising the worthy, and scorning and satirizing the ignorant and ignoble.

(As a side note, my own personal religion seems to take this belief to the extreme: Poetry (Lit and Lang) as Magic and Cosmic Mechanism.

4. Reverence for the Past (History)
Another obvious one. The Celts preserved their history as mythology, and the actions of the past weigh upon the present.

5. Reverence for Celtic Cosmology (Three Realms, Otherworld, Tree/Well, Spirals/Triskeles, Dhúle, the Cauldrons)
The above can be explored in other threads in greater detail. The point is that without reference, and doing things in terms of the Celtic cosmology of the three realms/otherworld, as opposed to working with them as "elements"; learning and using Celtic symbols like spirals and triskeles instead of pentagrams; exploring Celtic "elements" like the dhúle, or the winds, or exploring meditative devices like the internal cauldrons, you're just inserting "Celtic" things into whatever religion structure you like and the authenticity of your "Celtic" path is in serious question.

6. Reverence for Diversity and Inclusion (this includes respect for women, GBLT, all races)
'Nuff said. We've already made it clear (I hope!) in this SIG that anyone, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation who feels called by the Celtic gods or Celtic spirituality has the right to explore and worship them. The Celts were a diverse lot, and I think there was syncretism on their part (what conqueror society doesn't?). (Yes, there was slavery: again, what conqueror society doesn't have it? And yes, women didn't have it perfect in the Celtic world, but it was better than a lot of other societies. Clearly, our society's standards have changed--for the better--and though this point may be the most "modern" in conception, it still warrants inclusion in a historically informed path.)

7. Reverence for Mystery and the Complex
The Celts loved wordplay: puns, riddles, double-meanings, hidden layers. They also had a healthy respect for that most mysterious of places they knew: the Otherworld. Their artwork is full of knotwork, labyrinths, spirals... all pointing to a love of what is complex and hidden.

8. Reverence for the Community (Tribe, Hearth)
Again, another obvious one. Tribal society, family society. Today this may translate to many different sizes and kinds of communities, but the love, respect, cooperation and ethics needed to make any community work was essential to the Celts.

9. Reverence for the Self
Personal responsibility and achievement was a large part of the Celtic society, often to the extreme. Bragging, boasting, and head hunting aren't really what we need for a modern Celtic path today, but being able to argue and debate civilly, a strong sense of what is right, what is wrong (connected with the Community point above), and the ability to stand up and not be afraid to fight for what you believe is what any Celtic path needs.


Thoughts? Concerns? Clarifications?
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« Reply #6: September 06, 2009, 04:46:46 am »

Thoughts? Concerns? Clarifications?

I've read through the article last night too and I can really identify with most of those points.

The part about the Otherworld and the spirits of the land, was anyway something I wanted to mention.
Both plays a vital role in my system.

1. Reverence for Celtic Deities

Well, of course *lol*. Though I'm still not totally sure, that 'my' deities are not really pre-celtic.

2. Reverence for Ancestors, Heroes and Land Spirits
Well, I think it is important to be at least aware of where one comes from. The hero part is something I might have to find a way to work around.
(Lack of myth and so on) but the Spirits are important to me.

3. Reverence and Creation of Poetry (Lit and Lang) as Magic and Social Mechanism
Words are important to my path also, so no objections Wink
Plus I've been told I'm supposed to tell stories, because 'stories are important, people will listen to things in stories, they miss otherwise.'

4. Reverence for the Past
I'm very interested in the past of where I live. It is important to me and the past of the area is surrounding me anyway.
(It starts from the neolithicum with a huge standing stone and goes on to the customs people held on to till the 70's.)

6. Reverence for Diversity and Inclusion
Nothing to add here.

7. Reverence for Mystery and the Complex
Yup. Wink

8. Reverence for the Community
Another thing where I might have to find a way to work around the obstacles.
Community in the sense of family and close friends is understood, this is also important to me.
A kind of larger community and working for it, I'll have to see how to do that, but I agree to the point.

9. Reverence for the Self
An important point folks sometimes forget about.
(And I might even consider some headhunting *grrrr* Wink )
No if I can't respect myself, how can I respect others? If I don't think I'm worthy, how can I act in a worthy way?
Good point.

All in all - agreed.
(And I've used the word 'important' way to often in this post - sorry, my brain is a bit fried due to insomnia *yawn*)
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« Reply #7: September 06, 2009, 09:54:36 am »

I've read through the article last night too and I can really identify with most of those points.

2. Reverence for Ancestors, Heroes and Land Spirits
Well, I think it is important to be at least aware of where one comes from. The hero part is something I might have to find a way to work around.
(Lack of myth and so on) but the Spirits are important to me.

*snip

8. Reverence for the Community
Another thing where I might have to find a way to work around the obstacles.
Community in the sense of family and close friends is understood, this is also important to me.
A kind of larger community and working for it, I'll have to see how to do that, but I agree to the point.

These two points are something my own path de-emphasizes as well. I only actively worship one deity, and only rarely give offerings to land spirits--never for ancestors and heroes (don't really have a connection). And for the community part, my path is very much a solo path--I sometimes do things in terms of a hearth/family, but it is limited to my immediate family or myself (particularly when I lived alone). it also abstractly addresses the needs of the family/tribe, but it doesn't center around them.

Like I said, I don't think you have to address each and every one of these with full-blown worship--every path is different, and will focus on different things. You don't have to personally connect with each of these, but I do feel they are important enough for any Celtic path to be acknowledged, and understood in the context thereof.

In short, all of these points are things we should consciously consider when we think about a "Celtic path." How much emphasis that path places on each of these points is dependent on the path, and on the individual following it.

I'm glad you found it useful! I was a little worried it would sound too... something. My brain is a little fried too.  Tongue
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« Reply #8: September 06, 2009, 01:26:00 pm »


I read through this last night but haven't been coherent enough to touch on it until now. I'd say I agree with pretty much everything, though one bit I don't agree with, necessarily: I don't think a Celt needs to be a poet to be a Celt. I think poetry is important and certainly deserves a place on this list- and maybe compared to other cultures, every Celt is a poet- but it's one of those things like "every pagan is a priest" that gets my hackles up. If every Celt had been a poet, then there wouldn't be any concept of poet, just as there is no concept of religion outside of the everyday norm. [/rant]

I am going to go through these one at a time in more depth (I'm still not quite in the headspace I would like to be in today), but I wanted to put in my thoughts quickly.
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« Reply #9: September 06, 2009, 01:41:02 pm »

I read through this last night but haven't been coherent enough to touch on it until now. I'd say I agree with pretty much everything, though one bit I don't agree with, necessarily: I don't think a Celt needs to be a poet to be a Celt. I think poetry is important and certainly deserves a place on this list- and maybe compared to other cultures, every Celt is a poet- but it's one of those things like "every pagan is a priest" that gets my hackles up. If every Celt had been a poet, then there wouldn't be any concept of poet, just as there is no concept of religion outside of the everyday norm. [/rant]

I may be mistaken, but here I'm taking the very broad meaning of "poet" and "poetry"--one who creates (mythic/symbolic/metaphorical) meaning out of hir life; one who makes art--"poetry"--out of/in hir life. I don't think ERL intended to say everyone needs to be a poet in the literal definition of the word. If she did intend that, then I would be in agreement with you.
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« Reply #10: September 06, 2009, 02:10:33 pm »

I may be mistaken, but here I'm taking the very broad meaning of "poet" and "poetry"--one who creates (mythic/symbolic/metaphorical) meaning out of hir life; one who makes art--"poetry"--out of/in hir life. I don't think ERL intended to say everyone needs to be a poet in the literal definition of the word. If she did intend that, then I would be in agreement with you.

I do get a little too literal at times, but in other works (not the article you linked to) I've always gotten a narrower impression from her work. It could be me, though.
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« Reply #11: September 07, 2009, 12:36:08 am »

1. Reverence for Celtic Deities[/i]
Well, of course *lol*. Though I'm still not totally sure, that 'my' deities are not really pre-celtic.

This is intriguing to me.  I've been leaning to the idea that Brighid is actually a pre-Celtic deity.  Obviously, that's just UPG.  At least, I think it is.   Undecided

I'm well familiar with all the lore about Her and that She is considered one of the Tuatha De Danaan.  But She just seems so much more primordial to me.

I can't comment on any of the other Celtic deities, though.  But assuming I'm right about Brighid, and others are also pre-Celtic, how does that affect a "Celtic Path"?

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this.
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« Reply #12: September 07, 2009, 12:41:12 am »


I don't think being pre-Celtic necessarily precludes her from being Celtic as well.
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« Reply #13: September 07, 2009, 12:42:17 am »

I only actively worship one deity, and only rarely give offerings to land spirits--never for ancestors and heroes (don't really have a connection). And for the community part, my path is very much a solo path--I sometimes do things in terms of a hearth/family, but it is limited to my immediate family or myself (particularly when I lived alone). it also abstractly addresses the needs of the family/tribe, but it doesn't center around them.

Like I said, I don't think you have to address each and every one of these with full-blown worship--every path is different, and will focus on different things. You don't have to personally connect with each of these, but I do feel they are important enough for any Celtic path to be acknowledged, and understood in the context thereof.

Agreed.

I've been reading this thread with interest to see if my path would even be considered a "Celtic Path".  Brighid is the only deity I actively honor, although, of course, I respect all deities (including those of other pantheons).  I do employ Celtic symbolism in addition to Brighid's cross -- mostly triskeles and spirals.

Family and community are both extremely important to me -- but they always have been, so it's very difficult to say that's part of my path, rather than just part of who I am.

I do identify with the concept of a Celtic path, but I'm not sure I qualify, based on the list.  While I acknowledge all of those elements as important to a Celtic way, I'm not sure how many are important to my way.   Wink

Still thinking...
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« Reply #14: September 07, 2009, 12:43:43 am »

I don't think being pre-Celtic necessarily precludes her from being Celtic as well.

No, I guess not.  Groups of people moving from one geographic area to another frequently brought deities with them and also absorbed the local ones. 

I do wonder, though, if other people have the same sense about Brighid or any other Celtic deity.
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